DORAL, Fla. – At a press conference early Sunday afternoon at Doral, PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem and George O’Grady, the chief executive of the European Tour fielded questions from the media on a variety of subjects. Here are some of the highlights:
* Discussions are continuing with the South African Tour about the conflict between the dates of the Presidents Cup in Australia and the South African Open. Ernie Els, who is the defending champion of the tournament, leads the International Team standings and is among five South Africans at the top of those list to make Greg Norman's team. The South African Open is co-sanctioned by the European Tour, and O’Grady said he hoped there could be a resolution by the Masters.
"The European Tour certainly has an interest in seeing a very successful Presidents Cup, at any time, and especially when it goes around the world; and it can help, if you like, to grow the message of top flight golf in the countries it goes to, whether that's South Africa, Australia or any territory it might go in the future," O'Grady said.
"With the leading players on the rest of the World ranking coming from South Africa at the moment, the choice of that date doesn't appear perfect. … There are different alternatives, and I would hope that we can get it sorted out quite quickly."
* While he noted the top players in the world already compete against each other at 15-18 events each year like the majors, THE PLAYERS Championship and World Golf Championships, Finchem knows the game is evolving and new markets like South America and Asia emerging. So he expects more integration between the leading golf tours in the future.
"When that happens and how that happens, I couldn't tell you," he said. "I don't think it's in the short term. I certainly believe it will be in the mid term, ten to 20 years from now. Certainly as Asia develops as a powerhouse in terms of generating elite players and managing what that means in terms of access and presentation of the sport; and I do think we should be looking out 15 years on these issues and talking about that, and we are."
* Finchem said the TOUR is in on-going discussions with Cadillac and General Motors to bring a tournament back to Detroit. Those talks, however, hinge on finding an open date and there isn't much flexibility in that department right now. There are two tournaments currently on the PGA TOUR schedule that do not have title sponsors – the Bob Hope Classic in January and The Heritage in April -- but Finchem doesn’t expect those to fold.
"I think they are both going to be on the schedule for a good period of time, but I'm not positive about that; if that doesn't happen, I suppose it conceivably could open up a position for Detroit, although Detroit obviously has to be played later," Finchem said. "So it's not without its challenges, but I suspect it could happen.
"Right now, if I were to bet, I would say that both of those tournaments would continue to be on the schedule, and at some point in the future, it is a priority of ours to build an event in Detroit, and we are working on how to build that event. But it's the kind of event that we would want to, you know, do in a manner that would be quite successful. So we are spending energy on it. I just don't know when it would be added to the calendar."
* When asked about the devastation in Japan, Finchem said no plan has been formulated yet but there would be some kind of support for the relief effort. Right now, though, he said it was too early to identify the areas of most need and where to direct the support but he expects an announcement within the next few weeks.
"We are going to watch the situation, watch what the President's lead is on this from the United States' perspective and talk to the other golf organizations like we have done in Australia where The Presidents Cup people down there worked with Greg Norman to help people affected by the floods," Finchem said. "There was some effort in Christchurch; there was a big effort after the tsunami by golf several years ago where we supported the funds chaired by President Bush and President Clinton, and that was done across the board in golf.
"We'll just have to see things evolve and what we can do to help." – Helen Ross